“Fasting of the body is food for the soul.”
This quotation from St. John Chrysostom introduces the 2021 Lenten Cookbook, a free digital recipe book recently published by the Regnum Christi Calgary Formation Team.
This digital initiative out of Calgary, Alberta, Canada was originally borne from a need for connection; the Regnum Christi Calgary Women’s section longed for more activities and events that would bring its members together, even while COVID restrictions kept them apart. Since some of the Calgary teams had produced small cookbooks in the past, the Formation Team agreed that creating a larger, Lent-focused e-cookbook was a good fit, and members of the Formation Team each submitted a recipe (either original or adapted from another source). The digital cookbook includes recipes for a variety of fish and meatless dishes, like Easy Baked Salmon, Linguini with Clam Sauce, Black Bean Burgers, and Famous Carrot Soup. It also includes a prayer to say before and after meals, and quotes from Scripture and the saints.
One of the people on board this project is Richelle Tabelon, who has been a member of Regnum Christi since 2008; previously a Team Leader in the Calgary Regnum Christi section, Richelle just joined the Calgary Formation Team this year. Originally from Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada, Richelle completed her Bachelor of Science in Nutrition at the University of Saskatchewan in 2002, and began her career in nutrition as a Registered Dietitian in Victoria, British Columbia, working as a clinical dietitian in pediatrics, heart health, geriatrics, digestive issues, and diabetes education. After a move to Edmonton, Alberta, she also worked at the Royal Alexander Hospital on medical and surgical wards. As well, she has volunteered in The Gambia, West Africa with the Sisters of the Presentation of Mary, and served in the Royal Canadian Naval Reserve for ten years.
In 2007, Richelle settled in Calgary, Alberta, where she now resides and works as a Registered Dietitian. Throughout her career, she has provided a wide variety of nutrition counselling services in preventative health, chronic disease, and emotional eating, developing skills and a passion for working collaboratively with psychologists and physicians regarding disordered eating, anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating disorder recovery. “I have prayed for a career where I could incorporate my faith into my work, and helping support people with eating disorder recovery allowed me that opportunity,” says Richelle. “Eating disorder recovery requires not only physical healing, but also emotional and spiritual healing as well.”
As a Registered Dietitian, Richelle has a uniquely informed perspective on the concept of Lenten fasting and abstinence; for her, it is important to recognize that these are not simply arbitrary rules to obey on specific days or during particular liturgical seasons, but an invitation to grow in faith. “I have personally been drawn back to focus on the true meaning and purpose of fasting and abstinence during Lent,” says Richelle. “I don’t want to merely ‘follow the rules,’ but utilize these gifts that the Church has provided for us to be a means of deeper spiritual growth and a more intimate relationship with Jesus.”
For this reason, Richelle underscores the importance of continually examining our underlying intentions during periods of fasting and abstinence. “It’s important to make sure that fasting isn’t about trying to lose weight,” Richelle says. “As a dietitian, I’m quite sensitive to the fact that fasting and abstinence from food is not appropriate for everyone, but there are many ways to fast during Lent without using food.” Richelle encourages considering alternate, non-food forms of fasting if necessary, like giving up social media, unnecessary spending, or complaining.
Although the Lenten cookbook has only been out a week, the Formation Team has already received plenty of positive responses from those who have accessed it and tried out the recipes. “The cookbook was meant to be something fun for our members, because we often connect with food, and the COVID pandemic has limited this. A Lenten cookbook seemed like a great theme, as many people struggle with meatless or fish ideas during Lent (or the rest of the year),” says Richelle. “We have had lots of positive feedback already from our women’s section, and we keep hearing whose recipe they are trying next! The fun part is seeing who submitted the recipe, and you often end up thinking about that person while you are preparing the meal.”
Although the Regnum Christi Calgary Formation Team has not been able host in-person meetings and events due to the current COVID restrictions, its members have embraced the new opportunities and broader audience base that online initiatives, like the Lenten digital cookbook, have allowed. Their upcoming online event, called From Playboy to Adoration, will feature Julie Blatty, wife of famous screenwriter and The Exorcist author William Blatty, who will share the story of her conversion from Hollywood socialite to redeemed daughter of God. (To purchase tickets for this event on Thursday, March 18, click here.)
The Calgary Formation Team is already working on next year’s cookbook, and this time, they would love to incorporate recipes from Regnum Christi members from all over. To submit a recipe of your favorite fish or meatless dish for next year’s Lenten cookbook, email Richelle at firstname.lastname@example.org. To check out the recipes from this year’s Lenten Cookbook, click here. You can find more healthy recipes and posts about the intersection of faith, food, and fitness on Richelle’s website, faithfulleating.com.